When I returned to my debut novel so that I could polish it up and prepare it for publication I realised that I hadn’t transferred my character list onto the computer. It was in fact still in a handwritten file. Whilst I was rummaging through the file trying to find the list I stumbled on something that I had almost forgotten about – my favourite rejection letter.
Is there such a thing?
Well for me, yes.
You see, I think it’s generally accepted amongst the Independent author community that for an unknown author the odds on being published through the traditional channels are extremely slim. Nevertheless, that is no reflection on the quality of the work. Just think of all the blockbuster movies that started out as manuscripts that were rejected numerous times by agents and publishers (a topic in itself which I will probably explore in a future blog post).
What a lot of authors find difficult to deal with though is that agents and publishers often don’t even bother to reply. This is usually down to the fact that they receive so many submissions. If they do reply the letter is usually a standard mass-produced one which doesn’t give any indication as to why the author’s work was considered unsuitable.
When I went through the submission – rejection routine several years ago, it left me feeling downhearted. Although I fundamentally believe in my work, it helps to get some words of encouragement from someone in the industry who has probably sifted through thousands of manuscripts over the years. I did have a couple of near misses with my submissions but the best letter I received I have kept on file.
Thinking back now, that letter helped me to keep persevering. Although I eventually stopped sending submissions to agents and publishers and decided to concentrate on my writing business instead, I always knew that I would return to my novel one day. Thankfully, it’s now easy to publish as an Independent so my novel will get published this year, and when I do finally publish, I intend to celebrate, big time. I’ve copied a few of the sentences from that letter below:
“I have been right through the material you sent and had one of my trusted readers look at the manuscript extracts as well. We have come to the same conclusion, that you write well and have put a lot of thought, care and effort into your novel …There was a time when a manuscript of this quality would undoubtedly have been in with a very strong chance of getting into print. The market is much tougher now and to stand a chance you have to find an agent who will back you without reservation. Why a book can work for one reader and not for another I don’t know. Wish I did! … I am sorry I unable to help, particularly after you went to the trouble of supplying such an excellent submission (it could be a model for all aspiring authors). I do wish you the best of luck in finding representation.”
I pursued the matter with him to find out exactly why he felt he couldn’t represent me and basically it came down to personal taste. My book is aimed at a predominantly female readership so I think the fact that the agent was male probably put me at a distinct disadvantage in that instance. Nevertheless, it was very good of him to take the trouble to respond to me and give me some words of encouragement. He added that as my chances of getting published were favourable, I should keep on trying. But I’d already had my fill of rejection letters by then. If my novel (and the subsequent ones that I have planned) ever go on to be a great success I shall write to that agent and personally thank him for his kind words.
I’d love to hear about other authors’ motivations for self-publishing, and their experiences. Have you ever tried the traditional route and been knocked back? How did it feel? Please feel free to share your story in the comments box below.